Good morning, Young America! And by “young,” I mean Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials, many of whom just had the honor, or for some reason bypassed the honor, of voting in a national election. If the media is correct, you are really happy and enthusiastic about what you have seen. They told you to be happy. Yet you should be frightfully pissed off.
You see, Young Americans, you’ve been royally screwed. By your parents, no less. For the last twenty-odd years, since they gained power across the board, the Baby Boomers have sold your generations down the river — and they got you all to help seal your own fate. Ingenious? Insidious? However you wish to describe it, you’re going to need to legalize marijuana in a lot more states to dull the pain of what is yet to come.
The Boomers at MTV told you to get involved, to focus on the social issues, vote for change. But what were they really doing? With marketing far more effective than anything Don Draper ever imagined, they were selling you a massive bill of goods, making sure you look the other way while they continue to move the loot out the back door. And we can get political here — both parties were and are culpable, Republican and Democrat, acting with such brazen self-interest as could be expected of the Me generation members in control. More debt, more spending, more consumption — that was their American way.
Not only did you buy it, you continue to buy it. So one is left to conclude: either a) you are a willing accomplice, selling out your own futures to make sure that your parents — who gave you so much — can continue to enjoy more than you ever will; or b) you are bloody ignorant. It makes no sense for anybody to seek a worse life than they enjoyed as kids, so draw your own conclusion.
Since the Clinton era, the Boomers, your parents, have been in charge of industry, Washington, Hollywood, and Wall Street — which is the problem. With such absolute power, the old cliché applies: they are greedy, corrupt, and self-interested. And they won’t give up such status easily. In business, they are in their prime earning years, and are going to stay in their high-earning positions long enough to endure any downturn and to make sure they are set for their own retirement (what does that mean for you, coming up the ladder?). Politically, they are going to give huge sums of money to their peers running for office (it doesn’t matter the party — $2 billion dollars in negative advertising during a recession? Really?) so that they can hold onto the power which protects policies which benefit … them. You’ll hear rhetoric of change, and they’ll try to sell it to you as good for the future, but when it comes to tough choices you’ll hear outcries of fairness. Wait a minute: is it fair to steal from their kids to maintain their own lifestyles, as they have already bought the house, made the money, and run the country?
The fact that the Boomers led a society addicted to debt is well-chronicled, and addictions, as we all know, are hard to overcome. Fueled by their addiction, the Boomers led America on a consumption boom which lasted for almost a quarter century. Look around you, look at all the stuff you can’t live without: the twelve year olds with iPhones, TVs in every room, meals out most nights of the week. It probably has infected your thinking, too. The housing/mortgage bubble and bust is yet another outcome of the mentality. And the behavior carried over into their “stewardship” of our cities, states, and federal government — if you can’t afford it, no worries. Just keep issuing debt, somebody will buy it, and we’ll grow (or inflate) our way out of it. Nothing was ever out of reach. At home or in Washington, the Baby Boomer mentality was just to put it on the card (or two, three, or five — you remember mom’s wallet from the ‘90s). And life will be good.
But it is obviously an unsustainable illusion, and you, Young America, are going to be handed a very long butcher bill. The federal debt alone is $16 trillion, and if the past holds true to form, about to rise precipitously. State debt increasing? Check. Cities? Check. Hey, they’re even starting to fall off a cliff and file for bankruptcy.
And your parents aren’t done yet. They have more programs they want to fund before they are through creating the world in perfect harmony they sang of in 1970. And they are in a hurry.
Why, you might ask? Here’s the other shoe: they are preparing to retire. Yes, the Baby Boomers are about to head to their golf courses, and they want to make sure they are well taken care of. So don’t touch those entitlements, kids, we “earned” those. And give us our universal health care and prescription drug benefits … it’s a right, and it’s good for you, too. Oh, and when these huge numbers leave the workforce, the few of you still working get to pay for it all.
Yes, that is the dirty, awful, evil joke. You, Young Americans, get to pay for it all. And you won’t be able to. Nor will your kids. (Still got that marijuana handy?) The economy — bereft of manufacturing and the kind of self-sufficiency that remained until the Boomers got through “outsourcing” — bled jobs and career paths. Household incomes are in decline.
America is still the greatest country the world has ever seen. But she has been failed by a selfish generation which has squandered her ideals, ideals which the Boomers, your parents, have eradicated from the landscape in the blink of an eye. They hijacked a nation and its ideals and left it bereft and bankrupt, and there are no signs that they are going to change course. The selfish path has always been their nature, and that even applies to the world they are leaving behind.
So what is the answer? Become Luddites and go back to basics? Throw away the trappings of society and live off the land? Hardly. It is much simpler than that. You, Young Americans, need to wake up, stare them in the eye, and tell them you aren’t going to allow them to do this to you — to your future — any longer. No longer can you be complacent, be mindless vessels for their demagoguery. No longer can you settle for being second-rate. Don’t let them get away with the generational crime. Better yet, give them back the bill. They are, after all, the ones who enjoyed all the consumption, and they want to keep it rolling in retirement. Are you going to let them? What kind of parent goes to the store, buys something, and expects their kid to pay? Parents are supposed to provide for the kids, not take from them. Not only will you be saving yourselves, you’ll also be saving the country.
Save the country? Sounds like hyperbole. But if you really think about it, the founders of this great nation were young idealists themselves, and they took on the greatest (economic and military) power in the world in a quest to achieve their vision of a nation. Thankfully, nobody needs a revolution against a foreign power this time around, but you have the numbers, the ability, and the wherewithal to retake the country from those in control of the greatest economic and military power once again. That, Young America, would be truly “American.” Right the ship from those who ran it ashore. You just have to accept the task.
It’s your own fault if you don’t.
Image courtesy shutterstock / Luisa Venturoli
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